In all but two of HRM's business units, women are underrepresented among top-earners

And 80 percent of HRM's top salaries go to men 💃.

click to enlarge CAORA MCKENNA
Caora McKenna

About one in five Halifax Regional Municipal employees were paid over $100,000 in salary and compensation in the 2019-20 fiscal year, landing them a spot on the publically released Statement of Compensation (AKA Halifax's sunshine list).

The point of the sunshine list is to increase transparency within HRM and its work—and it becomes especially relevant when budget time comes around and council lays out its priorities for the coming years. During that process, councillors hear from business-unit bosses that the majority of their budgets go towards compensation. The sunshine list tells us just who is getting the most of those compensation dollars.

The Coast reported last year that 82 percent of Halifax's top earners were men, and an analysis of the new data—which does not yet account for HRM employees who do not identify within the binary of male or female—found little had changed, with women gaining just two percentiles in the pack to make up 19.7 percent of the big-money makers.

Said another way, there's an 80 percent chance if you make over $100,000 a year working HRM, you're a man.

Nicole Forntin, professor of economics at University of British Columbia, told The Coast via email that those numbers are on par with gender disparities in high-salary jobs across the country.

"If the cut-off to be on Halifax Regional Municipality's sunshine is $100,000, that group would include something like the top 7 percent of earners," says Forntin,  adding that according to Statistics Canada, of Halifax's top 5 percent of salary earners, only 26 to 30 percent were women.

While we're here talking about the gender pay gap among high earners, it's important to remember that:
  • Indigenous women working full-time, all year earn an average of 35 percent less than non-Indigenous men, earning 65 cents to the dollar.
  • Racialized women working full-time, all year earn an average of 33 percent less than non-racialized men, earning 67 cents to the dollar.
  • Newcomer women working full-time,  all year earn an average of 29 percent less than non-newcomer men, earning 71 cents to the dollar.
  • And, according to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, women with a disability in Canada working full- and part-time earn approximately 54 cents to the dollar when compared to the earnings on non-disabled men, equaling a pay gap of around 46 percent.
HRM's sunshine list (and most human-data in Canada) lacks any information about race, which makes it impossible to track its numbers against the national averages, but if the percent of female high-earners checks out, it's not a stretch to assume the same persists within HRM for Indigenous women, Black women, women of colour and women living with disabilities.

Forntin says given the "higher proportion of male-dominated occupations in the Municipality, such as law enforcement and public utilities," the 20 percent figure "is very believable and comparable to the experience of women throughout the country."

Regardless of the fact that it's in line with the rest of Canada, HRM spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray says "we recognize the gap in terms of female representation in many of our business units and it is a priority of the municipality to improve on this issue."

In 12 of HRM's 14 business units—not just the male-dominated fire and police—women were underrepresented in top-earning positions when compared to their representation in the whole business unit.

Like HRM's Legal, Municipal Clerk and External Affairs business unit: Women make up more than two-thirds of the employees, but only 35 percent of the top-earning employees.

Caora McKenna

Halifax Regional Police employs nearly 50 percent of the people on the sunshine list—read more about that here–and though 37 percent of its workforce is women, only 19 percent of the department's top earners are women.

click to enlarge CAORA MCKENNA
Caora McKenna

Only Parks and Recreation and Halifax Public Libraries trend the other way, with Parks and Recreation the closest to gender parity overall in the department and among top-earners. (Both Halifax Public Libraries and Parks and Recreation are led by women—Åsa Kachan and Denise Schofield. Do with that information what you will.)

click to enlarge Men on Halifax's sunshine list earn, on average $30,000 more than the women on the list.
Men on Halifax's sunshine list earn, on average $30,000 more than the women on the list.

Spray says as far as concrete programs to improve equity in hiring go, an employment equity program and hiring and community engagement strategy will launch in 2021.  She says they'll "focus on engaging with local communities and partners to foster and encourage inclusivity, accessibility and transparency around employment," and "help establish talent pipelines, promote job opportunities, influence our processes and promote the municipality as an employer of choice."

There's hope that the newly-formed Women's Advisory Committee will be able to bring new perspectives on the importance of understanding the role gender plays in policy to new projects at HRM. It joins the ranks of the accessibility advisory committee and the youth advisory committee, which exist to make up for the lack of those perspectives on council—which currently has as many women as it does men named Steve (two).

Spray also says the CAO's review of hiring is near completion, with a new policy—the Fair Hiring Policy—coming in the next several months, plus continued work on the Employment Equity program.

With all of this, says Spray, the "focus continues to be on increasing representation of women and other designated groups within the municipality’s workforce and to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent women /designated groups from accessing jobs, promotion and training."

With all those programs, perhaps there's hope HRM can improve gender parity among top earners by a bit more than a couple percent each year in the future—by hiring and promoting more women for leadership positions. At the least, there's hope that more than two non-men get elected to regional council this October

About The Author

Caora McKenna

Caora is the City Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from city hall to police and housing issues. She’s been with The Coast since 2017, when she began as the publication’s Copy Editor.

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